Warning - This article contains spoilers from Episode 5 of Loki.
Loki is back with another week of more mischief, more masquerading, and more...Lokis.
Episode 5 saw Loki teaming up with a trio of alternate versions of himself, forced to survive in a land beyond time known as the Void. Fans even got to find out how these Variants differ, with the Classic Loki being the result of a Loki surviving the events of Avengers: Infinity War.
Of course, a plethora of Easter eggs and references were littered across the desolate wasteland Loki found himself in, with a frog version of Thor and a Thanoscopter belonging to the Mad Titan himself being just a few of the notable items pruned from the Sacred Timeline.
Among the allusions to other Marvel Cinematic Universe properties, one character inclusion tees up a future villain in a big way.
THE SMOKE MONSTER
Upon entering the Void in "Journey into Mystery," Loki is introduced to Alioth, a giant dragon-headed smoke monster that acts as a guard dog in the Void. Any person, building, or item that is pruned from the Sacred Timeline can rest assured that they will be ravaged by the cloud being, in order to prevent any threat from reaching its master.
When Sylvie briefly connects with Alioth following her self-pruning seppuku, she catches a glimpse at a glowing castle tower. The vision stops before she can see what's inside the structure, but it is likely that a blue-faced fellow is just beyond the bright-yellow windows.
All is revealed when the Goddess of Mischief realizes that Alioth may have a weakness: enchantment. After combining her powers with her other self, Sylvie and Loki manage to contain the beast and part it like the Red Sea. When the smoke dissipates, it is revealed that Alioth is indeed guarding some sort of fortified castle.
We don't find out who lies beyond its walls, but one of Alioth's comic book rivals may just hint at who's made themselves a home at the edge of time...
KANG...BUT NOT AS YOU KNOW HIM
In Marvel Comics, Alioth possesses a temporal empire that rules over billions of years in history, which is twice to thrice as large as the time-ruling villain Kang the Conqueror's own empire. Also taking the form of a purple gaseous being on the graphic page, Alioth operates out of Limbo which is the likely inspiration for Loki's Void. Rather than existing at the end of the timeline though, Limbo is its own pocket dimension outside of time.
Given the Limbo connection and Alioth's association with Kang in the comics, it is very likely that the fortress seen is a version of Castle Limbo which belongs to Kang's future self Immortus (or Nathaniel Richards). Kang typically operates out of the city of Chronopolis in the comics, so the decision to use Castle Limbo instead may hint at the MCU positioning Kang and Immortus as two separate threats originating from the same individual. After all, if Loki can do multiple Lokis, the MCU can do multiple Kangs.
Although he is a future version of Kang, Immortus' motivations slightly differ from that of his past self. Like the Time Variance Authority's creator Loki, Immortus prunes the timeline of the branches that he and the Time-Keepers deem unfit. In contrast, Kang the Conqueror simply wants to conquer time, not afraid to spill bloodshed and crack skulls along the way.
Perhaps Immortus is so intent on pruning Variants and preventing the multiverse because he is actually worried about himself. If Kang is potentially bloodthirsty and willing to do whatever he can to rule over time, Immortus may be dead set on preventing a Variant of him from causing havoc.
Whether Jonathan Majors would play both versions of the character if Immortus were to be adapted is unknown, but it would be incredibly fun to see how the actor would tackle two interpretations of the same character.
ENEMIES TURNED PALS
Alioth was the reason that Kang decided against expanding his rule past 2000 BC, proving to be a meddlesome force that could not be dealt with. Ravonna Renslayer even had her own tussle with the beast, after accidentally freeing Alioth from a Kang-created temporal barrier. Left without any other options, Kang and Ravonna were forced to call upon Earth's Mightiest Heroes to quell Alioth and put him back where he came from.
Despite their adversarial relationship in the comics though, Immortus and Alioth seem to be on far better terms here. The MCU's cloud monster differs here in that he is not necessarily ruling over a stretch of time, but instead acting as a bouncer to the exclusive time club that Kang or Immortus is hanging out in.
So what's in it for Alioth? Perhaps he is content with feeding off of the pruned Variants that find themselves in the Void, giving him some sustenance that would otherwise be hard to come by. Alternatively, Alioth may have had other plans, perhaps hoping to overthrow Immortus and take over the timestream. There is also the possibility that Alioth is being used as a guard dog against his will, perhaps due to Immortus taking over his temporal domain during his tenure under the Kang moniker. With nothing left to rule, Alioth may have no other choice than to serve his new master.
The Loki Variants seem to have only been able to constrict Alioth rather than defeat him, suggesting that it will take a lot more to return all of that gas back into the atmosphere. Basically, this is an Avengers-level threat. If Kang and Immortus are being presented as separate in the MCU, there is a chance that Kang is forced to team up with the Avengers to stop Immortus and Alioth for good.
THE MULTIVERSE RUINS EVERYTHING
With the likely destruction of the TVA, it seems inevitable that Loki will kickstart the multiverse's creation. Going by the theory that Immortus is intentionally stunting the growth of a Variant of himself that transforms into Kang the Conqueror, letting branches loose could be the inception for Jonathan Majors' character and allow him to fully form as a younger Variant of Immortus.
The time-traveling devil he is, being allowed to live would give Kang plenty of time to set up shop before he debuts in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. Some eagle-eyed fans believe that a microscopic society seen in the second Ant-Man installment could be Kang the Conqueror's home base of Chronopolis, indicating that he will be operating out of the Quantum Realm.
Perhaps this is how Marvel Studios differentiates the threat of Kang the Conqueror from their previous big bad Thanos: having multiple versions of the same character duke it out whilst Earth's Mightiest Heroes find themselves stuck in the middle of their temporal war. All will be revealed soon whether Immortus will be sat upon a throne inside, or if it will simply be another elaborate ruse with a smaller yet cuter version of Alioth waiting for the Lokis behind the ominous doors.
Knowing this show, it really could go either way.
"Journey Into Mystery" is streaming now on Disney+.